You’re not a fan of blindly going with the crowd.
I know that because you’re a yogin or yogini. This path is one of questioning and gathering information about ourselves so we can live in a way that sets us free from the labels that don’t align with our soul.
The labels others have given you may have followed you all your life — whether true or not. Focusing on changing others’ minds is a losing battle, so let’s not spend our energy here.
Instead, what are the labels you use for yourself?
They’re hidden in your thoughts, the words you choose in conversation, the type of pain you put up with.
For example, if you think, “I’ll never be free from worry,” the idea becomes truth-like, but is it true? In Sanskrit, “absolute, unchangeable truth” is called satya.
Consider that the things you tell yourself are hypotheses and yoga is the scientific experiment wherein you put each hypothesis to the test. The goal is to illuminate your Truth.
First, they hypothesis: “I will always be worried,” you say. Then you practice an hour of asana and during savasana there are no worries.
You find yourself worrying during the day, then you breathe deeply and fully and the worry eases.
Later on, you meditate and get a glimpse of what life would be like if you didn’t worry at all.
Conclusion: You can be free from worry.
If this seems overly simplistic to you, that’s because it is. What’s crucial is the dedication and discipline to a daily practice that leads to freedom from labels such as worry. In other words, this is no one-time 7th grade science fair presentation.
Results may not be instantaneous depending on the stranglehold that the label, in this case anxiety, has on your life. But who expects from one piano lesson to suddenly become a celebrated concert pianist? It’s the daily, or near-daily, practice that offers the most benefit for those serious about label-free living.
What’s going on behind the scenes of your yoga practice is this:
The biologically anxious part of you resides in the sympathetic nervous system. Yoga turns on its opposite: the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system. By giving more attention and training to relaxation, the scale tips from worry dominance to balance — a life that acknowledges there are things to worry about, but isn’t controlled by them.
Here’s what you really want: a sense of control.
In the chakra system, the energy center in your body that identifies with labels and worry is the Solar Plexus Chakra, or Manipura in Sanskrit. Place one finger at your navel and another where the ribs meet above the navel — in between your fingers and inside the center column of the body is the Solar Plexus.
This chakra is also the center of our personal power and will. It’s the inner fire that ignites to transform stale and unnecessary labels into momentum for realizing our true Self.
To open and balance this chakra, you have to light a spark. Relying solely on your willpower at any given moment won’t do the trick. I mean, I gave up trusting willpower three vegan chocolate chip cookies ago.
Instead, rely on routine. Routine creates a sense of control. Without good and necessary limitations and containers for your yoga and meditation practice, you won’t practice, which really means that you’ll still be a worrier.
Your routine might look like:
- Right after I wake up, I will drink a glass of warm water with lemon and meditate for 15 minutes.
- Before I eat lunch, I will take six deep, abdominal breaths.
- When it is 7pm, I will practice my yoga postures.
Make it simple. Make it automatic. Make it work for you.
What label or “truth”, have you been holding onto — perhaps even considered part of your identity — that, on closer examination, isn’t true?
Toss it into the fire of your yoga practice to discover the unchangeable satya of your soul.
Asana Practice: Pigeon Pose, Variation of One-Legged King Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Yoga instructors, myself included, often try to sympathize with you while you’re in a pose that may cause your body (and mind) to grumble. So we say, “This is difficult!” or “No one likes Pigeon Pose!”
While well-intentioned, once these labels exist it’s hard to experience postures in any other way. So the next time you come to Pigeon Pose, there’s a feeling of dread rather than resting in the opportunity to be okay with whatever arises.
Labeling postures is something I’m actively eliminating from my teaching because I don’t want the labels I put on my practice to end up in yours. When a label arises during your asana practice, from someone else or yourself, don’t be afraid to ask, “Is it true?” Arrive at your own conclusions.
- Start in Downward Facing Dog. Lift your right leg and step it to the top of your mat for low lunge. Heel toe your right foot to the left side of your mat and lay your shin down on the mat. Keep your left toes tucked under.
- Bring your hands on either side of your hips to prop your chest up. Adjust your front leg: If your hips feel open today, bring your shin parallel to the top of your mat; if your hips feel tight today (and if you experience any discomfort in your right knee) bring your heel back toward your pelvis.
- Flex your right foot to protect the knee. Take a deep breath to extend the spine, then exhale and descend the upper body toward the mat. Rest your forehead on the back of your hands, or if your head does not reach the floor, prop it on a block, pillow or blanket.
- Draw your hips evenly square to the mat by gently nudging the right hip back and the left hip forward. This action will increase the intensity of the pose, so give yourself permission to adjust.
- Release your left toes on the mat while keeping the left leg engaged. Relax the upper body as much as possible. Stay for six deep breaths.
- When it’s time to come out, use your hands to walk your upper body upright. Lift the hips and send your right leg back into Downward Facing Dog. Lift and rotate the right hip and leg before taking Pigeon Pose on the left side.